Monday, December 08, 2008
World for Ransom (1954)
Written by Raven
Allied Artists 1954 offering World for Ransom tries hard being all things (noir, drama, adventure, war) and ends up being nothing more than a terrific waste of time. Perhaps a better name would have been “Viewers for Ransom,” for after 10 minutes I’d have paid some one a king’s ransom to turn off the TV so as to spend my time doing something more productive like arranging the can goods in the pantry.
While not lacking for talent, either on the screen or behind the camera, WOR stars Dandy Dan Duryea (Mike Callahan), Patrick Knowles (Julian March), and Gene Lockhart (Alexis Pederas). The first two pretty much reprise characters they’ve played in the past while Lockhart takes on the role of the evil mastermind in a plot to kidnap and ransom off a renowned nuclear physicist to the highest bidder. It makes no difference to him if the winning bid be from a democratic or communist country, thus, he holds The World for Ransom.
The femme fatale of Frennessey March is played adequately, if not spectacularly, by Marian Carr. The high point for her in my eyes was her actually bitch slapping Dandy Dan as opposed to his usual shtick which consists of him belting some dame around. During most of the story Dan appears to be coming off a bender and he must think those playing along side him are hard of hearing as he insists on using the Al Pacino School of Acting and shouts his lines.
Support is a riot of always welcomed treats; Reginald Denny, Nigel Bruce, Arthur Shields, Douglas Dumbrille (wearing shorts no less), Keye Luke, Strother Martin, and the talent that is Lou Nova! Somehow this bunch of talented players, can’t believed I included Sweet Lou in that line, gets zero help from the convoluted story that starts with Julian’s wife, who happens to be Mike’s former lover, engaging Mike to shadow Julian.
Directorial screen credit is missing and probably for good reason. Robert Aldrich is shown as producer and is listed the uncredited director at IMBD. Who knew he’d go on to make one of noir’s most controversial films, Kiss Me Deadly, along with more conventional offerings in the genre; The Big Knife, Attack and The Garment Jungle.
The story introduces us to Mike Callahan who shows no visible means of income but is well known to the local authorities as a “soldier of fortune and beachcomber,” in other words, a bum. He marks his time by hanging around the shadowy bars and back alleys of Singapore and based on a comment for Julian spends a good amount of time playing fantan. Just so happens, Julian and Frennessey also live in Singapore and like Mike, Julian is somewhat of a ne’er-do-well and dependant upon the money earned by his misses as songbird in a local dive.
Knowing his love for the ladies, his constant lack of funding and his background as an officer in the Queen’s Army, Pederas see Julian as an easy pawn in his plan to kidnap the eminent H-Bomb scientist Sean O'Connor (Arthur Shields) upon his arrival at the Singapore airport. It bears noting when Julian meets with Pederas there’s a chess set prominently set up in front of him which serves as a not too subtle note of who’s moving the pieces around in this little game.
Once Mike gets wind of what’s at stake, and at the urging of Frennessey, he agrees to track down the kidnappers into the deepest part of the jungle and not only rescue Dr. O’Connor but Julian too. This in spite of the fact Julian had swept Frennessey off her feet while Mike was off winning WWII. It later comes out that Frennessey isn’t all apple pie and the sweet thing that Mike left behind. She confesses to Mike that once he left to fight the good fight she had no recourse but to take on the world’s oldest profession to make her way in life. Guess all the secretary and waitress jobs were taken. Even so, once she met Julian he loved her for who, in spite of what, she was. Of course Julian loves all the ladies and just loves Frennessey a little more because she provides him financing.
The move outside and away from the cheap cardboard sets must have been the magic elixir Dan needed. Once the story moves out of doors he seems to get some life breathed into him. This is really good, for no way could the tipsy, freeloading Mike be up to the tasks required; beating up guards, climbing up the side of buildings, dismantling a machine gun, dragging a dying comrade to safety and of course taking on single handedly four machine gun toting bad guys and rescuing a nuclear physicist!
Thankfully once this has all been taken care of we only have to sit through the obligatory final scene when Frennessey comes clean and lets Mike know what a sap he’s been pining for her all these years as she’ll never leave her beloved Julian. But now the last laugh’s on her since Julian just happened to be one of the aforementioned four bad guys Mike takes out. Upon hearing this she proceeds to wail the tar out of Mike, something the viewers wish they too could take part in for the suffering endured during the prior 81 minutes.